Augmented Reality(AR), a revolutionary technology

In this article, Rachel Chen will introduce Augmented Reality.

 

In 2016, a mobile game named Pokémon GO suddenly swept over the world. It visualizes a virtual Pokémon on users’ own phone camera view with the application of augmented reality(AR) in order to create a sense that they are catching a Pokémon in the real world. It has successfully popularized the concept of AR and made AR a household name. There are more and more applications are now using AR technology to bring more intuitive feelings to users. However, most people’s cognition for AR persists at a superficial stage, which means that they have only heard about it. In this essay, the genesis of augmented reality will be discussed, as well as how it affects historical trends in communication, media or information management, and the key business in this field. Also, who benefits from this will be analyzed as well.

 

Genesis

Augmented Reality (AR) is defined as a real-time direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment that has been enhanced by adding virtual computer-generated information to it(Huffington Post, 2016). People might think of AR as a new outcome. But in fact, AR is a concept that has been existed for more than 60 years. AR simplifying user’s life by bring virtual information to any indirect view of the real-world environment and enhances the user’s perception and interaction with it (Carmigniani et al., 2011).

The first appearance of Augmented Reality dates back to the 1950s, Morton Heilig who is a cinematographer and he thought that cinema is an activity that has the ability to attract the audience to the onscreen activity by taking all the senses in an effective way(Carmigniani et al., 2011). This thought impelled him to build a prototype in 1962 named Sensorama which is a mechanical device that stimulated a motorcycle ride through New York by having experiencer sit in an imaginary motorcycle while experiencing the street through the screen, fan-generated wind and the simulated noise and smell of the city(Regrebsubla, 2015). This advanced concept and equipment took the first step in the development of AR and VR technologies in the future.

Sensorama                          Image:Minecraftpsyco, CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1968, Ivan Sutherland created the first Augmented Reality system using an optical see-through head-mounted display (HMD) named “The Sword of Damocles”, which is another milestone in the genesis of AR technology. More importantly, “The Sword of Damocles” has a specified orientation as it is an origin of HMD in the AR field which is different from the “Sensorama” that has an imprecise orientation between AR and VR field(Carmigniani et al., 2011).

“The Sword of Damocles”                Image: OyundariZorigtbaatar, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

How it is part of the historical trends in information management

From the traditional manual searching in the library to the current using of cloud computing, this trend shows that the management of information is developing in a  more efficient and simple way. However, the data we want to get is only available in 2D while the reality is 3D which means when people want to use data, in reality, they have to convert the 2D data in minds and then use it in 3D world. This will cost great amount of energy and the efficiency of information management will be declined (Porter & Heppelmann, 2017). Take GPS navigation as an example, when people using GPS navigation in a car, they need to look at the map while driving and figure out how to get to the destination. This means that we need to shift attention between the map and the road and mentally overlap the image on the map to the real road. It is difficult for people to separate their attention on two things at the same time and people might make a wrong decision or cause a problem because of this.

AR acts as a portal to propel information management from pure data to a three-dimensional version. It blurs the boundaries between the synthetic world and the real-world and blends them into a seamless whole(Pesce, 2017). With the help of AR, people can simultaneously convert both physical and digital information at the same time without any energies consumed. As mentioned above, people don’t need to spare their attention to both actual road condition and the map on the screen, AR can automatically show the route and navigate the driver at the same time. Thanks to ‘technologically supported hallucination’ AR, it offers us a better and more efficient way to manage our data.

AR navigation                                                    Image: Metamorworks, Standard or Extended licenses by Adobe

 

While manage information in a new way is highly promoted, using AR to manage information has also triggered a dispute about user’s privacy. People had no too much privacy left now. Their online activities such as browsing history and social circles can easily be tracked by cookies and monitored by Facebook. Real-world life seems to be their last utopia without surveillance. But the emergence of AR might deteriorate this situation. In order to project virtual information accurately, AR must keep scanning the real world through user’s  mobile devices and those devices will become a piece of surveillance equipment that users carry around to monitor themselves(Pesce, 2017). What products user purchases, which restaurant they go to, everything even just a trivial thing that user experienced might be recorded, even they never post online. More importantly, no one knows what these data will use for or who will manage and control it. Therefore, once AR is popularized, people might lose their last privacy.

 

Who owns and controls the key business in the AR field?

Honestly, AR technology is still in its preliminary stage, everyone is at a similar stage. There is no absolute monopoly in the AR field, so no specific company or person that owns and controls the key business in this field. Below are two companies in this field that focus on different types of AR devices will be introduced.

Microsoft is one of the prominent companies in the field of head-mounted devices. Microsoft HoloLens, released in July 2016 composing virtual content with the user’s field of view by rendering to a transparent stereoscopic light field display (“Introduction to Mixed Reality and the Hololens”, 2019). It consists of holographic lenses(waveguides) and sensors that allow people to interact with 3-D holograms pinned to the real world(“HoloLens(1st Gen) hardware”, 2019). Moreover, HoloLens is the world’s first head-mounted device in the AR field.

Microsoft HoloLens                                        Image: Ramadhanakbr, CC BY-SA 4.0

Apart from that, in the field of phone AR, Apple is another prominent company among other companies in this field. In 2017, at Apple’s fall conference, ARKit was first introduced. ARKit is a framework of Apple for its AR applications and games that can turn your living room or world into the environment in a mobile phone (Williams, 2018).

ARKit iPhone Demo

Video: CodeAndCoffee, CC BY

 

Who benefits from its transformation effect, and who does not

According to current trends, the international theme of the coming decades will be the development of technology and science. This can be proved by progressively increasing investment in the area of scientific research and education in North America and East Asia(UNESCO Institute for Statistics, n.d.). Therefore, AR corporations will be the biggest winners both politically and economically. Hence, some preferential policies related to AR technology will be issued by governments in order to support and encourage the development of the AR industry nationally. In China, the Shenzhen government received commanded by chairman Xi to partnered HTC to set up a $15.8 million “Chairman fund”. This helps local AR companies to focus more on the research and development of AR technology.

In the economic terms, the gradual spread of AR will open up a new consumer market. In 2016, the explosive popularity of Pokémon GO has drawn the public’s attention to AR and people show strong interest in it. Since 2014, AR has been the hot word search globally(Google Trend, n.d.). AR companies have more opportunity to develop their business due to the huge potential consumers market. Take the selfie app B612 as an example, it successfully entered the Chinese market and attract countless users with their AR special effects through a phone camera.

However, AR devices are expensive. For those people who cannot afford it may lose benefits from social change brought by AR. In the future, the way people receive and process information might be changed due to the popularization of AR. If information only exists in digital reality that needs to be received or view through AR devices, those people who cannot afford the AR device will suffer from incontinent in their life.

 

In conclusion, AR already exists for a long time. It improves the way of information management and made it more efficient. The invent and apply of AR technology make great progress in the development of the era. Also, it causes both positive and negative effects in different terms. In the future, people’s lives will be changed by AR technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


References

Carmigniani, J., Furht, B., Anisetti, M., Ceravolo, P., Damiani, E., Ivkovic, M. (2011). Augmented reality        technologies, systems and applications. Multimedia Tools and Applications, 51(1), 341-377.

Google Trends. (n.d.). Augmented Reality. Retrieved from https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&q=augmented%20reality

HoloLens (1st gen) hardware. (2019). Retrieved 11 October 2019, from. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-au/hololens/hololens1-hardware

Huffington Post. (2016). The Lengthy History of Augmented Reality [Image]. Retrieved from http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2016-05-13-1463155843-8474094-AR_history_timeline.jpg

Introduction to Mixed Reality and the Hololens. (2019). Retrieved 11 October 2019, from https://learn.fologram.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000967994-Introduction-to-Mixed-Reality-and-the-Hololens

Pesce, M. (2017). The last days of reality. Meanjin, 76(4), 66-81.

Porter, M.E., & Hepplemann, J.E., (2017). Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/a-managers-guide-to-augmented-reality#augmented-reality-in-the-real-world

Regrebsubla, N. (2016). Determinants of Diffusion of Virtual Reality. GRIN Verlag.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (n.d.). HOW MUCH DOES YOUR COUNTRY INVEST R&D? Retrieved from http://uis.unesco.org/apps/visualisations/research-and-development-spending/

Williams, A. (2018). What is Apple ARkit: Everything you need to know about iPhone AR. Retrieved from https://www.trustedreviews.com/news/what-is-apple-arkit-3286676

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